My Liege of Dark Haven

My Liege is the fifth book in the Dark Haven / Mountain Masters series by Cherise Sinclair. This is an erotic romance series that is set in a bdsm club.

liege

Threatened by university cutbacks, Professor Abigail Bern’s only hope is to publish a provocative research paper–soon. Planning to covertly observe behaviour in the notorious Dark Haven BDSM club, she takes a receptionist job. When the owner calls upon her to assist in a demonstration, she’s appalled. Then fascinated. Under the unyielding hands of the master known as my Liege, she discovers a need to be more than an observer.

His late wife had been the center of his life, and Xavier Leduc wants no other. But when his new receptionist does her utmost to keep an emotional distance from him, he’s intrigued and digs deeper. She’s adorable. Intriguingly intelligent, beautifully submissive, sweetly vulnerable. He soon realizes her defenses are keeping her on the fringe of her sexuality–and her life. As he draws her into fuller participation, she unconsciously does the same for him. She begins to fill his world.

Ever since the night she met my Liege Xavier, Abby has questioned everything she believes about herself. She’s falling for the stern owner of Dark Haven and thinks he’s beginning to care for her…until the day he learns why she’s in his club.

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Xavier is the owner of the BDSM club Dark Haven, which is set in San Francisco. He is basically the most alpha of all the alpha Doms who frequent the establishment and he needs all of that commanding presence to dominate Abby.

While very sweet and well-meaning, Abigail avoids conflict and any emotional outbursts at all costs, to the point that she has trouble even identifying her feelings during stressful or painful moments. As a result, she purposely wanders mentally during emotional bdsm scenes – and they are all emotional – trying to maintain the distance that is comfortable to her. This makes it hard for a Dom to keep control of the scene but Xavier is a master. Pun intended.

Abigail is exceedingly book-smart, but not very in tune with herself. After advancing ahead of classmates so many times growing up – she earns a doctorate by the time most people her age are finishing an undergrad – she is a little socially awkward, especially in romantic relationships.

Abby had no real intentions of ever joining into the play at Dark Haven. As far as she was concerned, she was attending the club to observe for research purposes, and to hopefully discover enough about the practices of D/s interactions to decide whether it was something she could attempt when her ex Nathan returned from a summer abroad. Her very first night there, Xavier blows this plan up, and he never stops drawing her into the scene after that.

Reading the chapters where Abby’s intention to write a published paper based on her observations at Dark Haven becomes known to her fellow kinksters – plus the fallout of this – are painful.

Reading from Abby’s POV, she feels so awkward and ashamed of herself and is afraid that she will lose Xavier and all of her new friends as a result. She feels misunderstood, and a little hurt that everyone immediately thinks the worst of her – that she is a spy on the inside determined to out them in public. Essentially, she needs to make restitution to Xavier but also to the general club membership in order to earn their forgiveness and trust back.

And this is very difficult and painful to do.

I won’t ruin the scene, because it is definitely something to read for yourself, but Abby’s punishment is very public within the club and something that I personally would dread as much as she does. It does make for very compelling reading though : )

I loved My Liege of Dark Haven just as much as I have loved the other books in this series and am excited to consider re-reading each as we get closer to the end of May and the release of the latest!

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Master of the Abyss

Master of the Abyss is the second book in the Mountain Masters / Dark Haven bdsm series by Cherise Sinclair.

On the mountain, the watcher seeks out evil women. And then they die.

Two years ago, when Jake Hunt uncollared his slave, she committed suicide. Guilt-ridden, he will commit to a woman for one night only, devoting his energy to a mountain lodge that caters to a BDSM crowd.

Kallie Masterson is tough. Unwanted as a child, she worked hard to become a wilderness guide. She’s proud of who she is, and hurt that Jake frowns on her for acting like a man.

After rescuing the macho guide from a bar fight, Jake is stunned that the ugly men’s clothing hides a warm, responsive woman. A submissive woman. When guide business brings her to the lodge on BDSM night, and she is obviously aroused by the play, Jake takes the little sub right into his world of pain and pleasure. He warns her: one-night-only. But she responds so beautifully–so joyously–under his command, that one night soon becomes two, then three…

Then a missing hiker reminds Jake of his past lover, and he realizes he’s become too involved. He pulls back.

Meanwhile, the watcher on the mountain has rendered his verdict: Kallie Masterson is evil. The sentence: Death.

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Jake was introduced in the first book about his brother. And he is just as hot as I thought he would be! Kallie is not at all the type of woman that Jake thought he was looking for but it turns out that they bring out the best in each other. He gives her the confidence to seek out the dom-sub relationship that had been missing in her love life while she in turn pulls no punches in making Jake face the BS he had been telling himself since his old girlfriend’s death.

Most of this book takes place in Yosemite National Park, so it is a fun “country romance” set in a beautiful landscape. Jake and Kallie are both working as guides, so the secondary characters tend to rotate in and out of the book, without taking too much focus away from the primary characters. It is nice that the Bear Flat community is expanded upon a little bit, with the introduction of some of the other residents, including Kallie’s three cousins, whom she lives with (and who all have the potential to be hot future heroes at some point!).

I have noticed that some other reviewers seemed to be a little annoyed by Kallie’s particular hang-up. After essentially being orphaned and dumped by her stepfather when he remarried, she bounced from family member to family member before ending up with her widowed uncle and three boy cousins. Afraid that she would lose this home too, and not understanding what she had done to be so unlovable in the past, she was a teenager determined to fit in with the boys and never rock the boat. Because of this history, Kallie always doubts her own self-worth and puts her needs last. She has major trust issues and doesn’t believe that she can ever count on another person long-term.

I had no problem with Kallie’s hangups and didn’t feel like they over-powered the book. It flowed well for me and I felt that it was balanced between the two main characters. To some extent, any positive example of a D/s relationship is going to be more focused on the submissive’s needs, not because the Dom doesn’t have them or is less important, but because the relationship is focused on the one who is giving up power in the exchange.

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Simon Says Mine

Simon Says Mine is a novella by Cherise Sinclair, and it is a part of the Dark Haven/Mountain Masters series. I originally read this as part of an anthology by three different authors, however Sinclair’s was the only story I liked of the three so I was ecstatic when it was re-released on its own. It is considered to be book 1.5 in this series.

simon

With an empty nest and divorce in hand, Rona decides it’s time to explore the fantasies that nourished her through a long, tedious marriage to a man whose idea of outrageous sex was leaving the lights on. At the top of her fantasy list is touring Dark Haven, the BDSM club, but she isn’t prepared for the effect of a powerful Dom. When Master Simon takes control and introduces her to toys and sensations she’s never felt before, she realizes he could fulfill every fantasy on her list all by himself. But she’s vowed to never get trapped in a relationship again.

One of the most popular Doms in Dark Haven, Master Simon has had his fill of eager, shallow, young subs. Rona is older, intelligent, independent…and sweetly submissive. After an evening of intense pleasure and despite her obvious attraction, she refuses to see him again. He needs a way to change her mind. She’s not the first sub he’s taken on a journey of exploration, but he’s beginning to think she might be the last.

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I liked Simon and Rona. Even though this story was considerably shorter than the first in the series – it is a novella after all – I felt like we still got to know the characters just as well. Jake, Logan and Rebecca all turned up with cameos.

Simon and Rona are an older couple for a romance novel. Rona is in her late thirties and Simon in his forties. Both are divorced parents of college-aged boys who are looking for kinky lovin’. Simon likes to call Rona “lass” because her name is Scottish and it makes me swoon every time he does it. His strong and polite attitude mix with a ton of patience and genuine interest in other people.

Rona is a very straight-forward women who isn’t out to play games. She is a professional hospital administrator with a history working as a nurse and is usually game to take charge of a situation and care for other people. She has read lots of bdsm-themed novels but isn’t prepared for the impact of a true Dom’s stare … or frown .. or command … in real life. Simon sets her heart and mind at war with one another. She was determined to capture the youthful experiences she lost by marrying and having children young, and along comes this handsome, kinky, sweet man intent on sweeping her off her feet!

I don’t want to imply that Simon isn’t a powerful dom by calling him sweet, but he really is! He’s the guy who you know is always going to be there to support you, even if you’ve been kinda a jerk. He is going to do the right thing. He is responsible and has his head on straight and the older I get, the more attractive those qualities become. One of my pet peeves is reading about grown-ass characters who behave like teenagers and thankfully, that isn’t a problem in this book!

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Master of the Mountain

Do you re-read books? It seems like there are some people who do it religiously (my hand is waving high in the air right now) and others who very rarely do it. I’ve mentioned this before on my blog, but the characters in my favourite books are like best friends to me and re-visiting those characters is literally like visiting an old friend who I don’t get to see very often. Sometimes I just get the feeling to go back to my favourites rather than reading new books, especially if I am going through a rough patch, so ‘m excited to share some of my old favourite on my blog over the next few weeks.

Master of the Mountain is the first book in the Mountain Masters / Dark Haven series by Cherise Sinclair. The series is order can be kind of confusing because it was originally two separate series that merged into one. I’ll try to post reviews in order 🙂

mountain

When Rebecca’s lover talks her into a mountain lodge vacation with his swing club, she soon learns she’s not cut out for playing musical beds. But with her boyfriend “entertaining” in their cabin, she has nowhere to sleep. Logan, the lodge owner, finds her freezing on the porch. After hauling her inside, he warms her in his own bed, and there the experienced Dominant discovers that Rebecca might not be a swinger…but she is definitely a submissive.

Rebecca knows that no one can love her plump, scarred body. But, to her surprise, Logan disagrees and is quite happy to show her just how much he enjoys her curves. Under his skilled hands, Rebecca loses not only her inhibitions, but also her heart.

Damaged from the war, Logan considers himself too dangerous to be around the enticing little sub. He sends her away for her own safety, not realizing she thinks she’s been rejected because of her size. When Logan’s mountains echo with her voice long after she’s gone, he knows she’s left behind part of herself—and taken his heart. But when he arrives in the city to reclaim her, Rebecca’s phone has been disconnected and her apartment is empty…

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I love the atmosphere in Master of the Mountain! Logan and his brother Jake are both super sexy, rough and tough manly-men doms who run a lodge in the mountains. Ms. Sinclair does a great job of enticing the reader into the lifestyle both of bdsm and of lodge life. The heroine Becca is a city girl through and through at the start, but not very happy with her relationship, or she discovers, her professional citified life. She is an artist at heart and falls just as much in love with the rugged outdoors as she does the man who shows it to her.

I’m a country-girl at heart and this book definitely brought out my longing to move from my small-town neighbourhood to the real countryside. I would love to live in a forest, in a village so small and remote that everyone knows everyone. At the very least, I am looking up cabin rentals for a vacation this summer, and dreaming of making it a permanent move!

So Logan, and incidentally his brother Jake as well, both are my own personal kryptonite and this is one of those books where I can truly say that I would love to take the place of the main character.

Master of the Mountain is filled with typical Cherise Sinclair hits, from a female character who is new to the scene, her blossoming sexuality and body confidence, and ridiculously hot guys who are honourable and fun. It is a light read that introduces a brand new cast of characters and one of my favourite series to go back and re-visit every couple of years.

Warning: The group Becca is visiting the lodge with are swingers and she quickly discovers that she does not want to participate and that her relationship with her boyfriend – already on the edge – is not going to survive the weekend. Considering he is swinging and pressuring her to as well, I don’t consider anything Becca and Logan do to be cheating but if this is a serious trigger for you, tread carefully.

Highly recommended!

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Sweetest Obsession by Ann Mayburn

sweetest

This is a STANDALONE insta-obsession erotic romance set in the Cordova Empire series (no cheating-HEA-no cliffhanger).

Ramon
In my family, there’s an old story going back generations about love at first sight. I used to think it was a fairytale, until I met my sweet Joy. The more I got to know her, the more I wanted her. But the world of the cartels is a dangerous place, so I watched her from afar, wishing things were different and I could claim her for my own. Despite my best efforts to keep her safe, evil found Joy. After she endured a savage beating at the hands of a rival cartel, I vowed to do everything in my power to make her mine and win her heart. I can only pray that when she finds out the truth about me, and the things I’ve done to bind her to me forever, that she’ll be able to love the monster I really am.

Joy
Without a doubt, Ramon Cordova is one of the biggest jerks I’ve ever met. He’s egotistical, bossy, and seems to know how to push all my buttons. Too bad he’s also sinfully handsome, utterly charming when he wants to be, and is the only man I feel safe with. After the attack, I’ve become afraid of the world outside of my home—afraid of crowds, afraid of loud noises, afraid of everything. When I’m in Ramon’s strong arms, those fears melt away. I know there’s a darkness inside of him that he tries to hide, and I’m afraid that when I finally find out the secrets he’s been keeping, he’ll destroy what’s left of my battered heart.

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Full Disclosure: I received a copy of this book for free in exchange for an honest review.

Sweetest Obsession is the second book in the Cordova Empire series. It is an erotic romantic suspense novel that has some dark moments but is not – in my opinion – a dark romance. You can read my review of the first book here.

Oh man, I wish this book was longer! I know I said that with the first as well, so it seems like these books are just going to be shorter than the other series written by Ms. Mayburn, but I love the characters and am a greedy reader so I will probably still say on book three that I want more!

The Cordova Empire books are character-driven, and feature dark, dangerous, honourable men who balance the evil they encounter at work by worshipping their chosen woman. Roman is a freak in the bedroom and a bit of a stalker for the woman he has fallen in love with. Sweet Joy is torn between the role that she wants to assume in life – that of a mother, wife and homemaker – and one that she has been shaped from childhood to assume, one of a professional in the workplace.

Through Joy’s journey, the author explores the meaning of feminism and how it should really stand for a women living the life she dreams for herself, and not assuming certain roles simply because previous generations of women have won the right for her to fill them.

Joy is an extremely forgiving, kind and caring individual who fits right into the Cordova Family. I hope in the next book, the word count will be expanded and also that we will see that heroine interact even more with her new family than our first two heroines have. Each of the characters, especially Roman’s parents and brothers, add new perspectives and depth and I would love to see these relationships expanded upon.

If you are familiar with the author, you will notice that there is a lot less detail regarding the running of the “family business” in this series than in some of her others. For some this will be great, others may see it as a detriment. I don’t particularly care either way, as I just see these books as unfolding of the characters rather that being driven by complex plot points and political intrigue.

D128, the mind control drug that was so key to the plot in book 1 is barely a factor in Sweetest Obsession, so if that turned you off of the first book, I would recommend you still give this one a chance.

Sweetest Obsession is another five star book that whets the appetite for more to come in the Cordova Empire.

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Obsession

obsession

Hannah

All my life, I’ve only wanted one thing: someone to love me and someone who will let me love them in return. This seems like a simple request, but I was born to parents who wished I had died of childhood leukemia, instead of my younger sister, and who have ignored me no matter how much I’ve tried to please them. I’m starved for affection, addicted to the feeling when someone cares about me, which has led to a love life filled with either boys I’ve scared off, or men all too eager to take advantage of me. I thought I would never find a man who could feed my craving for constant attention—and then I met Leo. He fills the void inside of me, haunts my dreams, and does things to me in bed that are so good, they’re probably illegal. I can only pray I don’t scare him off once he figures out just how needy I really am.

Leo

There are very few people in this world I’ve ever been able to form an emotional attachment to, but the moment I saw Hannah, I knew she was mine. We were bound together by fate, our paths crossing first as children, then as adults, each time marking me. She doesn’t know it but I’ve been watching her for a year now, studying her, stacking the deck so when I do make my move, there’s no way she’ll ever escape me. But my world is a harsh, cruel place, and the cartel I work for demands absolute loyalty and trust…a loyalty Hannah has yet to earn in the dangerous eyes of my employers. There is only one way to ensure Hannah’s absolute devotion, and I hope that she doesn’t hate me forever when she finds out that not only have I brainwashed her into loving me, but that I don’t feel an ounce of guilt about doing it. She’s mine, only mine, and I’m keeping her forever.

Warning: This story features a rough and demanding Dom who’s completely devoted to bringing his baby girl pleasure through such unconventional means as spanking, mild BDSM, D/S, roleplaying, and various other forms of wicked kinkery.

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Hannah and Leo’s story is hot and sexy! It is the first book in the Cordova Empire series by Ann Mayburn and it is dark “ish”, but not as dark as many of her other recent series. I think of it more as a “grey” romance if those even exist. There are a few elements that I think will push buttons for some readers, but they worked for me.

First-off, there are elements of a captive romance in Obsession. While Leo never stoops so low as to kidnap Hannah, he does watch her from afar for a long period of time and researches everything there is to know about her before inserting himself into her life. He uses this knowledge, and his worldly experience to overwhelm her defences and bind her to him emotionally.

Leo, who is like a son to the head of the Cordova Cartel, is their master torturer for the and my heart was racing at the knowledge. It wasn’t a big part of the story though and Hannah is kept well away from cartel business for the most part – she never stumbles upon him torturing a person, that’s for sure! I actually wish his profession had been played up more, but then, I like dark romance. *insert wolfish grin*

Everyone in the cartel has major trust issues, especially the inner family who run it, because in the past, a woman married into the family, bore a child and then sold her son for money to a rival cartel. The child was tortured to death before his father found him.

Fast forward one year to our present love story and the Cartel has developed a sort of truth serum that enables them to bring a person into a drug-induced, relaxed state, almost as if they were hypnotized. Leo uses this drug on Hannah to insure her loyalty to him forever, although he routinely points out that you cannot change anything fundamental to someone’s personality using it … therefore, he cannot force her to fall in love with him or anyone else.

Luckily for Leo, Hannah is desperate for someone to love and to love her back unconditionally, and is also into his particular brand of rough kink. Hannah and Leo’s bedroom play is a cross between bdsm and daddy/lg play and it is sexy as hell!

In any story you have to suspend disbelief somewhere, and this can be hard to do. In this case, the author asks the reader to believe that the Cordova Cartel are sheep in wolves’ clothing. To believe that they only torture, extort, kill people who deserve it and would help out another person without expecting anything in return in many cases. Bullshit. They are a criminal empire, one of the most powerful in their region apparently, and to be successful they must be ruthless.

This is why I wish the Cartel business and Leo’s “services” had been utilized more throughout the book and that the story had been darker, to be more realistic. To compare to the author’s Submissive’s Wish series about the Russian Bratva, even though each of those Mafia Men fall in love with the woman of their dreams and would never hurt her, they sure as shit do bad things to everyone else. They are the ultimate anti-heroes. At the end of the day, I am never going to buy that a guy involved in organized crime, particularly the Torture Master, is a really good all-round guy.

Despite this little hiccup, I loved Obsession and would highly recommend it!

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Bound Together by Christine Feehan

bound

The Sea Haven series comes to a climactic end as the mysterious man from Blythe Daniels’ past re-enters her life.

For five years, Viktor Prakenskii has put his life on hold in order to take down the world’s most feared motorcycle club from the inside. But carrying out the insane violence and seeing the club’s exploitation of the innocent has brought his traumatic past roaring back. And there’s only one cure: to see the wife he left behind…

Blythe Daniels thought she’d never see Viktor again after he murdered her stepfather and left without a word. She rebuilt her life without him, becoming a personal trainer and physical therapist…becoming strong enough for others to lean on. But when Viktor comes back to Sea Haven, he’ll make Blythe question everything she thought she knew about good and evil—and the dark desires of the heart…

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Bound Together is the final chapter of the Sisters of the Heart series as well as the prequel to the Torpedo Ink series that will debut in 2018. It felt like a reunion novel in many ways; so many threads and characters were brought back from previous books in this series, and also from the Drake Sisters series.

There were a TON of expectations for Bound Together. And I think overall that the author did a pretty good job of bringing everything “together”, a task that I can only imagine seemed insurmountable at the start. There were lots of points that I loved in this novel, but there were also a few things that I found myself to be very skeptical of or opposed to. One thing that I’m not even going to touch on further is that there were a few continuity issues between BT and the previous books in the two series, and that the plot line was fairly predictable for anyone familiar with Feehan’s work.

This review is going to have major spoilers, which is one of the reasons I have waited a month to write it. Fair warning…

Ms. Feehan was able to impressively weave together the old characters from the Drake Family and the farm (about 25 people) with Viktor and his MC (another 9 characters on page), plus children they’ve rescued, background peeps from the village and a horde of bad guys. That is a lot of people who need “page time” and distinct voices! No wonder the author was hard-pressed to wrap everything up in one book.

Now, before I sound too critical of her efforts, I want to point out that I think Ms. Feehan did the best anyone could have done considering the massive amount of material to be covered in a minimal number of pages. That being said, I believe that it was more suited to two tomes released back to back as many romance authors have been doing lately (looking at you Ann Mayburn!) or working with the publisher to write a book that is much longer than the others in the series.

Now as much as I wanted to meet the MC members who are a part of Torpedo Ink, they should have been left behind to show up in the first book in the next series instead. As it is Ms. Feehan only introduced half and left the others off-page. Their inclusion led me to feel that some of the others didn’t have their stories finished. Lexi in particular, I wanted to catch up with and see her adjustment to Gavriil’s announcement that he wanted to join the outlaw MC!

There is almost no interaction between Viktor and the other Sisters of the Heart throughout all of Bound Together, and there is no interaction between him and their children. Many of those “sisters” are only mentioned in a couple of chapters but Blythe was a strong supporting character in each of their backstories.  I also was desperately anticipating the meeting between (a very pregnant) Joley and the Prakenskii brothers but this is not included in Bound Together which made me feel cheated as a reader.

I don’t want this review to reiterate the entire background of the Torpedo Ink members, but suffice it to say that they have no idea how to interact in society nor do they realize the limits of normal relationships. Fair enough, considering how they were raised, but Blythe fits in a little too easily with them. I understand that forgiveness, compassion and acceptance are her dominant personality traits but she accepted Viktor and co a little too easily in my opinion. She seems to go from literally physically struggling to get away from Viktor to solidly having his back in all situations, and reflecting his exhibitionist tendencies.

Ms. Feehan has continually painted each new hero in her books as the “baddest of the bad”. Well, at some point you reach the ceiling and there is nowhere else to go. She asks the reader to suspend their belief, and accept that each new group is that much more skilled. And I’m not buying it anymore.

In Bound Together, the Torpedo Ink members are described as being more dangerous than any of the other survivors of the program our earlier heroes emerged from. I think Torpedo Ink can be slightly more dangerous in that they don’t even want to try to live within the constraints of normal society, to “fit in”, and that they are totally willing to kill innocent people to protect themselves from perceived danger, a step that none of the others has taken thus far. Perhaps their only redeeming qualities are that children are off limits and that these actions are done out of an all-consuming fear. Fear that one of their own will die or otherwise be taken from them.

But I heartily dispute the idea that these men and two women have skills that far exceed the other Prakenskii brothers (and Aleksandr). They were all “trained” in the same schools. In fact, the point is continually made that the T. Ink crew weren’t trained so much as incarcerated and tortured all their lives, and that they didn’t start running missions until their twenties, compared to the others who had the best training in the world and started running missions as teens.

Who do you really think is going to be more effective? More skilled? More experienced?

Ya, not the new boys on the block.

I also don’t think they would have easily taken to playing with the children, and caring for them, as happens in the end of the book. These are men and women who never had a childhood. They don’t know how to play, or even how to laugh, points that are made repeatedly throughout the story. They are not well-suited to immediately adapt to parental roles, and certainly wouldn’t know how to entertain and play with children of different ages, or know what is age appropriate for each. Viktor is the only one of them who I believe would have a chance, and that is because of his experience with Blythe and that he was the oldest when he was taken, rather than a baby or a toddler.

So these are all the main points that I dispute or had issue with while reading Bound Together. Each is relatively minor overall, but stayed with me after finishing the story, especially when taken together.

That said, I did enjoy the book, and it met many of my expectations, but for the author to expect that one regular-length book could culminate in a thorough and fan-friendly reunion story for 12 previous books and introduce a new cast of characters for the next series is far-fetched and laughable. For what it was, it was good, but I wish the author and publisher had been more flexible, and willing to think outside the box to make Blythe and Viktor’s story fantastic.

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